Saturday, 28 February 2009

Jom Makan

Jom Makan is an initiative of the Malaysian government to promote the wonderful cuisine of this South East Asian country to the world. The location of the place in Trafalgar Square is lavish and extravagant, which can only suggest that the rent can only be met or fulfilled by some quango in Kuala Lumpur.

On the two occasions I’ve been here, the experiences were filled with dread and utter disappointment. My review at Trusted Places more than summed up the trauma.

Marina, my best Malaysian buddy who knows a thing or two about Malay cooking. She insisted that I accompany her to this awful place, the level of ‘remorse’ I felt thereafter was painful.

Marina's comments in blue and my rotten handwriting in black (I can only write with a fountain pen, I'm...what's the word...oh of course; established). As for the atmosphere I think Marina, and myself included, preferred it to be more rustic and less contemporary, after all Malaysian cuisine is anything but western.

Armed with a discount voucher (they give these away all the time!) and we still got fleeced in the end, the cocky manager (the mere mention of Marina hailing from Pahang must have rattled him!) conveniently forgot to take the discount off the sides (or bloody starters)! Pathetic!

Fried potato cake with fried shallot & spring onions

Coconut rice served with crispy anchovies, peanut, cucumber, boiled egg, beef rendang and squid sambal

Noodles in curried broth with fish cake, tofu, vegetables & boiled egg

Marina concluded that this place was obviously formulated for the Mat Sallehs. Well if Jom Makan did indeed go that way then they’ve got it all wrong, Mat Sallehs are savvy eaters these days and as a result there’s no way they’ll want to be taken for a ride. Jom Makan doesn’t represent Malaysian cuisine in the slightest, it degrades it deep into the abyss of non-cuisine.

Avoid this place without fail!

Jom Makan
5-7 Pall Mall East
London SW1Y 5BA

NB For the best Malaysian tuck in London go to Makan or Malaysia Hall (both Halal) or the non-Halal combos of Malaysia Kopi Tiam and Rasa Sayang.


Aqua Scaremongerous

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Salt Beef Bar

The Greek Cypriot owners

Chicken Soup

Salt beef on rye is a joy to behold and even more so to savour.


The unimaginatively named Salt Beef Bar is located in Temple Fortune, an irreproachably bland area that’s sandwiched between Golders Green and the loveless North Circular.

This little unassuming café has been around for as long as I care to resolve and it was certainly there ten years ago when I lived in Finchley.

I’ve come to accept that a Salt Beef sandwich is never going to be cheap, except perhaps the bagel variety found at Brick Lane Beigel Bakery.

To date this wonderful place serves a sandwich that’s as good as my reference standard at Selfridges’ Brass Rail.

There’s absolutely nothing to comment on the tiny restaurant inside, it’s a caff; one goes in and munch and exit in no time, nothing more and certainly nothing less.

The assured sandwich that’s worth a pilgrimage. Despite the unadorned nature of the plating, the beef was quite literally lip-smackingly delightful. Although belying its simplicity, the triumvirate of the beef, rye bread and loads of mustard (English please!) figures in my top five for fast and equally comforting food.

The must order side of potato latkes completed the lunch nicely. The ones here are more like croquettes, generously seasoned with pepper and lovingly crunchy on the outside.

Great snacking grub.

Do pay this place a visit if you’re passing by, I’m confident you’ll love it.

NB Don’t turn up on Fridays, as they’ll be shut with the Shabbat being observed. Secondly this place is not supervised, i.e. not Kosher.

2 Monkville Parade, Finchley Road, London NW11


His Eminence Boris Johnson said-

“I consider all food to be delicious. I can’t believe how lucky we are in this country; no wonder we’re all so fat”

Props for the above photo- Fat Les/32" Levis 501/30" vintage belt

Monday, 23 February 2009

Tre Viet

I have by now tried all the Vietnamese eateries dotted along the Pho Mile of Kingsland Road, so it was high time that I started to venture further east into the heart of Hackney to seek out what's cooking. Mare Street (reachable by the number 55 bus!) is technically parallel to the Pho Mile, in addition to its proliferation of random businesses run by the settled Vietnamese community, I was also surprised to find a large amount Chinese takeaways or generic 'chop suey' joints in one area!

Tre Viet was recommended by Lurch, an affable ex-college mate I met for dinner last night. Like all foodie muggles who live near a particular restaurant, Lurch enthuses about this place as being the best Vietnamese in London by a mile and dirt cheap. The ambience of the dining room had this sepia effect about it, it was also like walking into a horticultural museum dedicated to bamboo- the choice of furniture or decor used can only suggest that any effort applied to comply with the term 'current contemporary' was quite obviously non existent.

Service like with all Vietnamese restaurants in London is adequately friendly and
so-so efficient; once again the common trait of the lack of any English spoken or understood is as usual part and parcel. (I still find this phenomenon a kick-in-the-teeth experience, how do these post-teenagers get away with less than ten words of the English vocabulary? I’m numbed senseless! And it's not just the Vietnamese restaurants that I'm talking about; it's rife out there as I've also noticed this practice at the Maze Grill, Cafe Garcia, Indian restaurants, etc.)
I've said it before, when going for a Vietnamese one simply has to try the coffee. This is the iced version with the addition of condensed milk- sickly sweet and deftly synthetic, yum!

A totally insulting portion of chả chiên- fried Vietnamese sausage. Five measly slices at £3.50, who is kidding who? Tasted ok and most definitely not life changing.

Impressive looking bánh cuốn- Vietnamese rice noodle rolls with a filling of pork and prawn. Now this inherently wonderful steamed Vietnamese industry standard was served at a lukewarm temperature (reminded me of the veloute fiasco at The Princess Victoria). Lurch said that he has only known this dish to be served at that temperature; well sonny maybe at Tre Viet but certainly not at the other Vietnamese restaurants I've been to. Imagine dear Lurch swearing by gazpacho being always served piping hot!

BTW, despite the temperature indifference, the bánh cuốn was rather tasty.

The gỏi cuốn or Summer roll was pretty decent and surprisingly accomplished. Don't overdose on this dish; the prodigious amount of vermicelli enclosed within is extremely filling.

Lurch's beefy Pho was his raison d'être to patronise this place weekly. It was at best average, I need to drag him down to Kingsland Road.

My Bún bò Huế or spicy pho with beef and pork. This dish is supposed to make anyone sweat profusely, not me mate; it was way toned down and in terms of chilli hotness, it was as mild as a Japanese curry!


I looked around the now busy dining room and then suddenly something dawned on me; holy Saigon, all the diners were not Vietnamese (well what I mean is no Orientals!). No flippin' wonder why the food here tasted uninspiring. And Lurch, at £15 a head with no booze, I think we ought to head to the Pho Mile next time. For the real thing you can’t go much wrong with Loong Kee.

As for Tre Viet, I'm not going back.

251 Mare Street
E8 3NS

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Wild Honey

Anthony Demetre of Wild Honey at the very least deserves a Measly Bleeding Effort or an MBE for short. Michael Winner once said that he was way beyond worthy of an MBE, he declined the order as he thought it only fit for lavatory cleaners! Well that remark may prove costly to any of his remaining aspirations of becoming Lord Winner of Willesden.

Together with its sister restaurant, Arbutus, Wild Honey has more than demonstrated that we’re able to eat good Michelin starred grub at affordable prices without conditions or embarrassment. In my first review at Trusted Places, I’d suggested that people who frequent posh joints that are lauded with a minimum of two stars shouldn’t talk down on places like Wild Honey. This place belongs to the real world, its existence without the need of a stuffy Maître d' or sighing (can we have a bottle of house red please?) sommelier is a blessing for genuine foodies (without the deep pockets or expense accounts) like you and I. I thereby propose that Demetre be honoured with some kind of accolade should that MBE thing fall short for his ‘real world’ contribution to the restaurant industry without delay!

The dining room is in every way indicative of a gentlemen's club; the dominance of wood panelling only proves the point further. Thankfully the assured casualness of the way this place is run puts an end to that clubby feel. Some reviews have evoked alarming ignorance and snootiness among the waiting staff; I’m glad to say on the occasions I’ve been here the service has always been exemplary. By this I mean there’s neither sniffing nor the incredulous wide-eyed stares if I
opt for the set meals or request for a carafe of l’eau du Thames.

Came here for lunch today with daughter (Her) and immediately settled down with some decent bread and chilled tap.

My lunch set starter of thinly sliced pork with apple purée was served warm.

I enjoyed this despite Her protestations that the applesauce was too overpowering and sweet.

Her mains of line caught cod, cockles, chorizo and chickpeas was declared great although she found the plating of it all to be too much for her in one sitting.

The bit of cod I did try was wonderfully fresh and perfectly cooked. This was a great choice for a mains.

My mains of oxtail ravioli with cavolo nero was an absolutely belter of a dish, and to think it was only part of £17.00 three course meal. The melting filling of the parcels were beautifully beefy and satisfaction inducing.

Oh the parmesan…that only egged on more groans and woahs!

Her dessert of the Wild Honey’s signature of warm chocolate soup and milk ice cream is one of those dishes that should be a mandatory order for any Honey first timers.

This pudding course is more than capable of setting all dieters’ pants on fire (self denials and lying, if you please)! Near monumental.

My traditional style warm rice pudding. The last time I had this was over thirty years ago, yup you’ve guessed it, school dinners! That horrid experience left me traumatised and very nearly put me off rice pud forever. Hell knows what got into me with ordering this, I think it was down to the other choice being only Brie de Meaux and I didn’t fancy any cheese to end the meal.

I started to sample the pudding by spooning grain by grain until I realised in no time how absolutely scrumptious this dish was. The tremendous creaminess and flavour of the best sticky toffee drove away any initial fears. I’m now a convert, this rice pudding was nothing short of astounding!

Don’t be shy with ordering either the Lunch Set (£16.95) or the Pre Theatre Dinner (£18.95) when you’re here next. I loved it and hope you do to. Anthony Demetre, you’re a diamond geezer.

12 St George Street

Previous Visit-